Blanketed in Love
Adina Hatch and her husband moved to the Philadelphia area 18 months ago from upstate New York when her husband took a new job.
They joined Grace Baptist Church of Blue Bell and went to a Bible study one night at the home of Maria Sierra-Ortiz.
Maria and Adina got to talking, and Adina explained that she ran a daycare for 16 years before moving, and was retired now, raising a special needs son they had adopted from foster care.
“My dream job,” Adina continued, “would be to be a baby cuddler in a neonatal intensive care unit.”
Adina had no idea that Maria Sierra-Ortiz is the iconic social worker for the infant intensive care unit at Temple University Hospital.
Maria identified herself to Adina, and said Temple had wanted to begin a cuddler program.
“I was almost in tears when she said that,” Adina recalled. “I am a very faith-based person. God has shown us, our family, every step that this is exactly where we were meant to be."
Adina Hatch started in September volunteering three days a week as a cuddler at Temple.
“I am able to hold them and rock them gently,” Adina said. “I also talk softly, I often hum. I found they love that connection of the heartbeat. They love to have their heads near my heart.
“I am able to cuddle babies that are really fussy so nurses can attend to other babies,” she continued. “Or I ask the nurses for babies whose parents aren’t able to visit for whatever reason. I pray over them. I pray that being born early, or born addicted to something, that somehow they will be protected. I just try to love on them. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s very peaceful for me. It’s such a warm and loving environment there.”
"She is an angel watching over our babies," said Maria Sierra-Ortiz.
Adina has not been able to cuddle babies since March 11, when Temple shut down the cuddler program because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped Adina from making a contribution.
Her church friends from back in upstate New York have been sewing quilts for these Temple babies. The group calls itself 'Stitches of Love' and sends blankets to Adina, who has also been making blankets as well in her home. Adina sends all of them to Maria, so every baby in the infant intensive care unit at Temple is able to go home with a homemade quilt.
“I feel like I’m making a difference,” said Adina, “and it’s something I can do because everybody needs a purpose.”
Michael Vitez, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the director of narrative medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org